By UniSA Creative Writing & Literature Student, Melissa Raymond
From UniSA to become Australia’s most inspirational female food and wine writer, author, and humble celebrant.
The girl from the bush who once filled milk buckets for pocket money has taken the writing world by storm. Her dairy farmer parents had no doubt Katie would become a writer and surpass the pristine life on the family farm.
After finishing boarding school, Katie excitedly enrolled in UniSA to study Professional Writing and Communication, Journalism. From a young age she loved books and knew studying an Arts degree would lead to a rewarding career. Independent and full of spirit Katie’s ambitious nature utilized UniSA’s resources which led her to complete the university degree overseas and accelerate career prospects.
“In my last semester I took a scholarship, an internship in Stuttgart (Germany) where I completed studies in journalism. Then I got the travel bug.” Katie said.
Recalling her youthful memories while sipping a lukewarm coffee, she gazes at a huge pile of ironing beside a suitcase, ready to hit the road.
Germany to London at the time was the hub for graduating Uni students to immerse themselves in a transient city. Jam-packed with cultural experiences, diversity, and opportunities. The world was Katie’s oyster and a burning desire to become a successful writer drove her travels. Her first job as online editor for Magicalia gave her a taste for writing feature articles, specialising in lifestyle stories. Then the BBC called offering a gig on weekends.
“I knew to become a successful media writer I had to get this job. And I did! Seven days a week, six months on the go, managing the Russian editorial news feeds…”, she chuckles, “I didn’t speak Russian either.”
A pursuit for success keeps the fire and midnight oil burning but speaking with Katie, it’s obvious, she just loves to write. Her vivacious charisma is captivating. She loves glitter and must wear colour, possibly a reflection spending time at London’s West End Theatre where she interviewed celebrities and wrote travel blogs.
Within a few short years, Katie’s life had transformed from a UniSA student to quoting mega stars. She has interviewed a screen goddess, Helen Mirren, and golden globe superstar Christian Slater. Not bad for a university scholar and a warm-hearted country girl just wanting “to tell stories with heart.”
“I remember interviewing Helen Mirren, my first major interview,” Katie said.
“It was in a posh London hotel and I was surrounded by pushy male journalists. Helen was playing the lead role in ‘The Queen’ at the time and was wearing the biggest diamond ring I’ve ever seen. The journos fired questions at Helen like bullets. I couldn’t get a word in. Suddenly, she stopped talking, turned to me, and said, ‘Don’t ever let anyone push you around, you deserve to be heard.’ I’ve never forgotten it.”
From London to Sydney and back to her grassroots of South Australia, Katie has dabbled in radio, and remains a key editor for prominent lifestyle magazines. She is a freelance writer, a feature writer for Wine Business Magazine and national drinks writer for Good Food sharing mouth-watering experiences and stories for Fairfax Media.
After initial encounters with artisan producers and winemakers Katie said, “I needed to school-up and learn the wine lingo. I love wine, particularly Coonawarra Cabernet. But how does a wine enthusiast decide what to pair with what, without being a “wine-wanker.”
From this, her ambitious nature required more skills which led her back to the keyboard with numerous wine-tasting glasses in hand, an essential requirement to formally achieve commendation in Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) studies.
In 2021, life stopped for a moment, it was one of the first times Katie realised she was a good writer. Driving at the time, she pulled over and watched Australia’s Wine Communicator Awards. Pen in hand and eagerly waiting to report the next industry star, she hears, “Best Published Feature Article, Katie Spain. Wine Communicator of the Year, drinks writer, Katie Spain.”
A lifestyle and feature writing career has its challenges. It entails endless travel to meet new and old friends. It demands experiences while consuming copious amounts of food and wine. Mingling with people is essential to sharing stories through creative writing. It is not just a job, it is a lifestyle.
“Wine brings people together, it’s a generous industry, full of inspiring people and stories, like riesling legend, John Vickery, and d’Arry Osborn, creator of d’Arenberg Wines.”
Spending time with this down to earth country girl is contagious. Her vitality and intellect push boundaries with no sign of slowing down. During lock-down she became a celebrant, not just to tell more stories, but to become part of them.
Her feature articles are on most Australian tables and online platforms. She is one of Australia’s most prominent female role models in the writing world. She’s a strong believer in mentors – “find one early!”
- Be tenacious, find your voice
- Be humble, kind, know your worth
- Read widely, write, but most of all – be yourself!